Major League Baseball spring training begins in earnest next week when pitchers and catchers officially report to Arizona Diamondbacks camp. It’s the start of another season — when hope springs eternal and everyone is even in the standings — even if it’s just for a day or two.
Three former Hops have secured invitations to big league camp with the D-backs: 2014 outfielder Todd Glaesmann, 2013 starting pitcher Braden Shipley, and 2013 relief pitcher Daniel Gibson. Two other former Hops, 2013 starting pitcher Aaron Blair and 2015 shortstop Dansby Swanson, will report to Atlanta Braves big league camp, after the D-backs and Braves struck a blockbuster trade in December at the Winter Meetings.
So what does a big-league spring training invite mean? For one, it certainly means you’ve caught the attention of the big club. Elite minor-leaguers are invited to see how they stack up against the best competition in the world. Some are invited just to get a taste before being reassigned to minor-league spring, while others have a legitimate chance to crack an opening-day roster.
Shipley and Gibson both seem to have a stronger chance to break the season as Diamondbacks than Glaesmann. However, Shipley’s path to the big leagues was somewhat clouded as the D-backs signed starting pitcher Zack Greinke and traded for fellow starter Shelby Miller. With those two joining incumbent rotation members Patrick Corbin, Rubby de la Rosa and Robbie Ray, Shipley’s 2016 major-league future seems a bit more uncertain.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Shipley finished 2015 very strong. In August at Double-A Mobile, he went 1-2 with a 1.15 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 39 innings. He was a bit inconsistent earlier in the season, but settled down and performed extremely well down the stretch. If he were to come out in spring training and dominate consistently, the D-backs might not be able to ignore him.
Both de la Rosa and Ray are relatively unproven, and any hiccup may open up a door for Shipley if he is good enough. There is also strong competition beyond those first five pitchers when you add in guys like Zack Godley, Randall Delgado and Archie Bradley. Shipley will have to be very, very good to earn a rotation spot to start 2016. More than likely, he’ll be destined for more seasoning in Reno or Mobile.
Gibson at this point is a stronger candidate to be an opening-day D-back, even if it is still unlikely. He came on very strong in 2015, posting a 1.56 ERA across 52 innings between Visalia and Mobile. He struck out 58 in that span. He then proceeded to post a 0.00 ERA across eight innings in the hyper-competitive Arizona Fall League.
Gibson is something every team needs: a left-handed reliever. Lefties who can touch the mid-90’s with a fastball are rare commodities, and Gibson is proven at some of the most competitive minor league levels in the D-backs’ chain. Arizona’s bullpen is considered to be one of the team’s vulnerabilities, and there is only one lefty absolutely guaranteed a bullpen spot for 2016 in Andrew Chafin. Most teams like to carry at least two in the bullpen. Gibson will compete with Matt Reynolds, and fellow spring training invitee Wesley Wright for that coveted spot.
He is still probably a long shot to start the season with Arizona, but if his form continues to be strong in the upper minors and the big league bullpen encounters turbulence, Gibson will be ticketed for Chase Field soon.
Todd Glaesmann hit 14 homers in 94 games with the Triple-A Reno Aces last season and got himself on the radar of the big league club. His path at this point appears a bit blocked, with outfielders David Peralta, A.J. Pollock, and Yasmany Tomas firmly entrenched in Phoenix. The fourth outfielder job is expected to go to the highly-touted and wonderfully-named prospect Socrates Brito, who performed admirably in a short stint in Arizona last season.
If injuries were to befall any of the big-league outfielders, Glaesmann may find himself some spot work as a Diamondback. He still needs to prove he can consistently produce offensively at the highest level of the minor leagues, which means additional time as an Ace is probably in the cards. (Get it?)
Aaron Blair will have an excellent chance to make the Atlanta Braves if he performs well in spring training. His new team is in the midst of a rebuild, and opportunities are plentiful in the organization. If he doesn’t make the team out of spring, he should be up at some point in 2016.
Dansby Swanson is still probably a year away, although his new manager Fredi Gonzalez expects him to move quickly. With the Braves moving to a new ballpark in 2017, it appears Swanson, a Georgia native, has a legitimate chance to open the 2017 season and the new ballpark as the Braves starting shortstop.
During the long baseball offseason, players do all sorts of different things. Some continue playing winterball in various international leagues, some go home to rest and train, and some even take jobs to help make ends meet throughout the winter months.
I recently caught up with 2014-2015 outfielder Grant Heyman, who spent the winter in Sydney, Australia playing for the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League. He played in 24 games, hitting .267 with three home runs. He took the time to chat with me about his ambitions, life in Australia, and what he wants to accomplish in 2016.
Q: How did you end up playing for the Sydney Blue Sox in Australia?
Grant Heyman: I expressed to the D-Backs after the season that I was interested in playing winter ball to make up for lost time on the DL this year. I got a call in about mid-November telling me they had a spot in Sydney for me and to pack my bags!
Q: How long were you there for?
GH: I spent about a month there.
Q: Was it something you always wanted to do?
GH: Yes. When I heard about the league in Australia I thought it could be a perfect opportunity to continue to play professional baseball in the offseason and see a beautiful country.
Q: What were your living arrangements like down there?
GH: Townhouse. It was nice and I roomed with another American, Rhys Hoskins with the Phillies organization, and an ex-Japanese major league pitcher Keiji Uezono.
Q: What has been your favorite thing about Australia?
GH: The people and the beaches. Everyone is very welcoming and the beaches are worth the trip.
Q: How does the competition level in Australia compare to the minor leagues in the states?
GH: It’s interesting actually. I’ve faced multiple former big league pitchers since I’ve been here and some that haven’t played affiliated ball. Minor league competition is more consistent but I have had the chance to face more pitchers with big league time here.
Q: Was it hard for you to come back to the states?
GH: I will miss it here but it will never be hard returning to the states.
Q: Did you have any moments of culture shock?
GH: A common language helped with culture shock but the hardest thing for me to get used to was driving on the other side of the road and having to watch cricket on TV instead of football!
Q: You played well in Australia. Was there anything specific you worked on down there?
GH: Not in particular. More than anything, I just wanted to get as many at-bats as possible. Plate discipline is something I need to work on and the only way to help that is more at-bats.
Q: You were a part of two championship teams with the Hops. What has been your favorite memory playing in Hillsboro?
GH: Honestly I don’t have one favorite memory. Every time I got to put on a Hops jersey and play at Ron Tonkin Field was such a blessing. The fans, the town and the ownership make it such a great experience and have contributed to some of the best years of my life.
Q: How has your time in Hillsboro changed you as a baseball player?
GH: Playing in Hillsboro has taught me what winning a championship is like and what it takes to get there. I learned that you can’t just go out and play for yourself, but if you play to win, good things will happen.
Q: What do you want to accomplish stateside in 2016?
GH: Another championship ring of course! And to keep climbing the minor league ladder which means taking everything at-bat by at-bat and game by game.
A big thank you to Grant for taking the time to update us on how he spent his winter. We’ll keep providing updates on him and other former Hops as they climb their way towards Arizona.
Stay #AllHoppedUp, Grant!
The final guest for the Third Annual Hillsboro Hops Fund Banquet is Hillsboro’s own Ben Petrick. Ben will be on hand along with Hops’ manager Shelley Duncan, pitching coach Mike Parrott, hitting coach Jose Amado, Diamondbacks’ farm director Mike Bell, Diamondbacks’ vice president Bob Gebhard, and Diamondbacks’ assistant hitting coach Mark Grace. Together, the panelists will help to raise funds to help kids continue playing baseball and softball. The banquet is on January 30th, this coming Saturday, at NW Events & Environments in Hillsboro.
Ben has served as a special consultant for the Hillsboro Hops ever since the team came to town in 2013. He has called Hillsboro home his entire life, and attended Glencoe High School where he was all-state in baseball and football. A catcher by trade, Ben works closely with the Hillsboro backstops and pitchers to help build the relationship between battery-mates. He is also well-versed in swing mechanics, and is a mainstay in the video room.
He was a decorated catcher in his playing days. He was the rare five-tool catcher, possessing elite athleticism and offensive prowess in addition to his abilities defensively. He was selected in the second round of the 1995 draft by the Colorado Rockies. The man who drafted him is none other than Bob Gebhard, another banquet guest.
Ben made his major league debut in 1999 with the Rockies. His debut was electric, as over the course of the 1999-2000 seasons in which he appeared in 71 games, he hit .322 with seven home runs.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2000, but he continued to play baseball while battling the illness. His last season in the big leagues was in 2003 with Detroit before retiring and announcing he was battling the disease. In 240 big league games, he hit .257 and 27 home runs.
He has gone on to author the riveting 40,000 to One, an incredible collection of personal stories from his days in baseball, his fight with Parkinson’s and his growth as a husband and father. He is married to Kellie, with whom he has three daughters: Makena, Madison, and Bailey. The family resides in Hillsboro.
We’re extremely fortunate to have Ben back for another season as consultant, as he continues to help minor leaguers accomplish the same feat he did in 1999.
The last silent auction item we’ll highlight is a Doug Drabek signed, game-worn Portland Mavericks jersey. Drabek served as the Hops’ pitching coach for each of the last three seasons, presiding over dominant staffs that were either among the leaders or led the Northwest League in ERA. Last year, the staff set a record by posting 11 shutouts during the regular season.
The Hops paid homage to the Portland Mavericks on August 20, 2015, with the team donning the iconic red, white, and black of the Mavs. It was a unique throwback to a legendary uniform combination. This is an opportunity to own a seriously authentic throwback jersey worn by a former Cy Young Award winning pitcher.
Doug Drabek pitched for thirteen seasons in the big leagues with the Yankees, Pirates, Astros, White Sox, and Orioles. His best years came as a member of the Pirates, when he won the National League Cy Young award after winning 22 games with a 2.76 ERA. All told, he won 155 games in his major league career.
He was promoted this season to become the pitching coach for the Double-A Mobile BayBears of the Southern League. He’ll have his hands on some of the most prized arms in Arizona’s system, and he’ll be reunited with some Hops who have moved along the developmental chain.
Hope to see you all on January 30th!
Earlier this month, it was announced that 2015 Hillsboro Hops manager Shelley Duncan would return to the team as manager in 2016. Shortly after that, the team announced Duncan would attend the Third Annual Hillsboro Hops Fund Banquet as a special guest and panelist. He’ll take the stage with the entire 2016 coaching staff on January 30th at NW Events & Environments in Hillsboro.
Duncan made his managerial debut with the Hops in 2015 in what can only be considered a rousing success. He successfully guided his club to a second consecutive Northwest League Title after securing both halves of the Northwest League South Division. The Hops finished with the best overall record in the entire Northwest League and then posted a 3-0 record in elimination games in the playoffs.
Though it was his first year in the dugout on the managerial side, Duncan has spent his entire life around the game. He is the son of legendary pitching coach Dave Duncan, who has long been a trusted confidant of Tony La Russa, the celebrated former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics, and current Chief Baseball Officer for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Shelley essentially grew up in major league dugouts around some of the most influential names in the history of baseball.
He also played seven seasons in the big leagues with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, and Tampa Bay Rays. During that time he knocked 42 doubles and 43 home runs. His managers as a player included Joe Torre, Joe Maddon, Joe Girardi, and Manny Acta, all of whom helped to shape him into the manager he is today.
Duncan played a lot of first base during his time with the Yankees from 2007-2009. His infield at the time? Robinson Cano played second base, the unparalleled Derek Jeter was at short, and Alex Rodriguez manned the hot corner.
He has a wealth of stories from his time as a player and manager, and on January 30th, he’ll peel back the curtain on his baseball life.
Want the ring Shelley wears on his finger? The Hillsboro Hops Fund silent auction will give you a chance to bid on an actual Hops championship ring from the 2015 season. The 2014 championship ring was designed by Jostens and was absolutely beautiful, and the renderings of the 2015 ring show that this year’s will again be something special.
The Hops Fund banquet is the only time where you would be able to walk away with a piece of Northwest sports history. It would be a fantastic addition for any collector of sports memorabilia, or any ardent Hops supporter. See you next weekend!
Hillsboro Hops fans will fondly remember our next banquet guest. Mark Grace, Hillsboro’s 2014 hitting coach, will make his triumphant return to Washington County to participate in the Third Annual Hillsboro Hops Fund Banquet on Saturday, January 30th at NW Events & Environments.
Grace was previously a banquet guest in 2014 and left the audience clutching their sides with laughter. A gifted storyteller and an unsurpassed character, the decorated former Diamondback and Cub unleashed an array of stories no one in the room that night has forgotten. He’ll tell a few more in ten days.
Mark Grace is regarded as one of the best hitters in recent professional baseball memory. In fact, no one in Major League Baseball had more hits than him in the decade running from 1990-2000. His brilliance with the bat was consistent and he finished his fantastic career with 2445 hits and a lifetime .303 batting average. He spent thirteen years in Chicago as a member of the Cubs before leaving the North Side in 2001, and in his first year with the Diamondbacks, won a World Series. He started Arizona’s famous rally in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 in the 2001 World Series against the Yankees with a single off of legendary closer Mariano Rivera. He made three all-star teams.
After retiring from baseball in 2003, Grace jumped into broadcasting. He was known for his humor and ability to inject levity into any situation. His first year in coaching came in 2014 with the Hops as their hitting coach, where he helped to guide the team to its first Northwest League title. He developed a strong relationship with his players and several members of Hillsboro’s front office.
Grace jumped all the way from Hillsboro to Arizona last year when Diamondbacks’ manager Chip Hale named him to the big-league staff as Assistant Hitting Coach. He had enormous success as Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta all had breakout years under his tutelage. He’ll reprise the same role for the D-backs in 2016.
He couldn’t miss a chance to come back and spend some more time with his friends from 2014. Don’t miss your chance to hear a true storyteller recant some of the most memorable stories from his illustrious career.
Another great silent auction item available at the banquet will be two baseball lacelets. The lacelets are bracelets made from the lacing found in baseball gloves. Both lacelets have been emblazoned with the Hops’ rallying cry “ALL HOPPED UP.”
The lacelets were donated by our friends at Baseball Lacelets. Unique messages can be adorned upon the bracelets and more information can be found at baseballlacelet.com. It’s the perfect gift and item for anyone who loves the game. We all know how connected people feel to their baseball gloves. These lacelets allow you to keep your glove with you at all times, and can be a constant reminder of some important phrase in your life.
Our fourth guest for the upcoming Third Annual Hillsboro Hops Fund Banquet is our 2016 hitting coach, Jose Amado. The banquet will take place on Saturday, January 30th at NW Events & Environments just down the street from Ron Tonkin Field. Tickets are available now.
Jose Amado is in his first year with the Diamondbacks’ organization after spending 14 years playing professional baseball across nearly every level. His first year as a professional came in 1997 with the Everett AquaSox of Northwest League fame. He would spend seven seasons in affiliated baseball with various teams, but he has logged six additional seasons in international and independent leagues as well.
Amado’s strongest professional season came in 2006 when he hit .359/.428/.588/1.022 with twenty home runs and 83 runs driven across two leagues. He drew 48 walks and struck out just 17 times, indicative of an incredibly disciplined, polished, professional hitter.
His final season as a player came in 2008 as a member of the Wichita Wingnuts, an independent league team in the American Association. The very next season, 2009, he stepped into the hitting coach role in Wichita, a post he only now leaves to join Arizona. His teams in Wichita were powerhouses, drawing off of Amado’s own experience in working counts and earning his way on base.
His approach will surely help the young hitters in Arizona’s system grow more disciplined and advanced in their strategies when they go to the plate. A mark of a young hitter is over-aggressiveness, and Amado’s poise in the batter’s box will be a key component in creating a feared 2016 Hillsboro Hops team.
Amado is a native of San Cristobal, Venezuela, hailing from the same country at 2015 hitting coach Javier Colina. Amado’s star pupil is another native of Venezuela: Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta. Peralta played almost 100 games for the Wingnuts in the 2012 season, and credited much of his improvement to Amado. Peralta is now regarded as one of the stronger hitters in all of major league baseball after he hit .312 with 17 home runs and 78 runs batted in. The two remain in close contact.
We’re looking forward to having Jose join us as a banquet guest, and as our hitting coach for the 2016 season.
Our friends at Columbia Sportswear have provided a fantastic package that can be yours during the silent auction portion. They’ve donated two Turbo Down Gold 650 Jackets, and two Treadlite 10L backpacks. We’ve added in two passes to the phenomenal Mt. Bachelor to round out the package. If you or anyone you love is an outdoor aficionado, this is the item for you.
There are twelve more days to purchase tickets for the banquet. The money goes to ensuring boys and girls receive everything they could possibly need to continue pursuing baseball and softball as they get older.
We hope to see you all at the banquet supporting this terrific cause. Every day we get a little bit closer to our goal, and every day we do more to ensure the health of our past time in the Pacific Northwest.
Our third guest for the upcoming Hillsboro Hops Fund Banquet is 2016 Hops pitching coach, Mike Parrott. The evening will raise money for local youth to continue playing baseball and softball as they grow up. It will take place on January 30th at NW Events & Environments.
If you’re a Mariner fan, there’s a good chance you remember Mike “Bird” Parrott. He pitched for Seattle from 1978-1981 after breaking into the big leagues with Baltimore in 1977. In 1979, he was the Mariners’ Pitcher of the Year when he went 14-12 with a 3.77 ERA. He threw thirteen complete games in the season while recording 229 innings.
Parrott was a first-round selection by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1973 draft. He fought through the system for five years before finally making his major league debut for the Orioles in 1977. He would appear in just three games for the Orioles before being traded to the Seattle Mariners in December of ’77.
Over the course of his major league career, Parrott did battle with a number of Hall-of-Famers including Robin Yount, Carl Yastrzemski, Paul Molitor, Rod Carew, and Eddie Murray. Come to the banquet and ask him about facing those legends.
Parrott got his start as a pitching coach in the 1988 season with Single-A Rockford, once an affiliate with the now-defunct Montreal Expos. He spent six years coaching in Montreal’s system, spent 1995-96 with Florida’s Triple-A team, then caught on with the Diamondbacks in 1997.
His first assignment with the D-backs was with Rookie-Level Lethbridge. He coached at various stops in the system before receiving the Triple-A pitching coach job with the then Tucson Sidewinders in 2002. In 2009, the Sidewinders moved to Reno and became the Aces, and Parrott went with them to remain as pitching coach. All told, he served 14 seasons as the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A pitching coach, making us very fortunate to land him as ours in 2016.
He will bring a wealth of experience working with older, more developed arms to Shelley Duncan’s staff in 2016. His experience with pitchers further along in their development paths will help him instill better habits in the younger, more underdeveloped arms he will encounter in Hillsboro. Moving Parrott down the developmental ladder allows him to impact a prospect positively at a more malleable stage in his career.
Duncan has said himself that 2015 Hops pitching coach Doug Drabek was an invaluable asset because he taught him how to handle and use a pitching staff. Duncan will lean heavily on Parrott and his nearly 30 years of coaching experience during the 2016 season.
Possibly the most unique experience up-for-grabs in the 2016 silent auction is the ability to attend a Hops game and sit with the former Portland Mavericks manager, Frank Peters. Peters managed the legendary Mavericks in 1974 and 1975, now featured in the famous Netflix documentary titled, The Battered Bastards of Baseball.
The Hops honored the Mavericks in 2015 with “Portland Mavericks Night,” in which the team dressed in the iconic all-red garb and hosted more than twenty former Mavs with an on-field ceremony. It was one of the most memorable nights in the Hops’ short history in Hillsboro.
The package includes 4 all-inclusive club tickets to sit and enjoy the game with a true character in Frank, who will surely provide colorful commentary and one-of-a-kind anecdotes from the days of the Mavs.
Frank Peters was offered the Mavericks managerial position after the manager before him was released for punching an umpire. The Mavs were famous for their baseball abnormalities, assembling older castoffs deemed unworthy for professional baseball to compete against actual affiliated minor-league teams. The rag-tag bunch of barnstormers never took themselves too seriously — an attitude instilled by Peters — and they went on to win divisional titles from 1973-77 despite playing as an independent team in an affiliated league.
This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to sit with Peters and hear some stories you never would about the legendary, iconic Portland Mavericks.
The Third Annual Hillsboro Hops Fund Banquet raises money to keep boys and girls interested in baseball and softball as they progress through grade school and into high school and beyond. Studies show that interest in the sport wanes as children get older and the games grow more expensive. We do our best to combat that, and on January 30th at NW Events & Environments, we’ll gather to celebrate the game we all love and ensure it remains accessible to all.
We have an absolutely stacked, star-studded panel joining us to assist in raising funds. Mike Bell, Arizona’s Director of Player Development has already been highlighted, but the entire 2016 coaching staff will be present as well. On Monday, it was announced that Hillsboro legend and former MLB catcher Ben Petrick will join the panel, as well as 2014 Hops hitting coach and Diamondbacks legend Mark Grace. It will undoubtedly be a night of incredible storytelling and deep belly laughs.
We’re also fortunate to have one of the most respected names in the entire baseball industry joining us in Bob Gebhard. Bob has served as Vice President and Special Assistant to the General Manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks for the past eleven years. He has experience as a player, coach, and personnel man.
Gebhard spent parts of three seasons (1971-72, 1974) in the big leagues with the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos before moving into coaching in 1976. He served as a coach until joining the Twins’ front office in 1987 as their Director of Major League Personnel. He was present for Minnesota’s two World Series titles in 1987 and 1991.
From Minnesota, Gebhard moved on to join the expansion Colorado Rockies in 1991 where he and a few others were on the ground floor of the creation of the team’s entire baseball operations department. He served as the first general manager in the history of the Rockies franchise.
He was the central architect of the feared and famous “Blake Street Bombers,” which assembled sluggers Vinny Castilla, Dante Bichette, Larry Walker, and Andres Galarraga all in the same line-up. In 1995, the Bombers combined to hit 139 home runs en route to a NL Wild Card berth, the first play-off appearance in franchise history. In one of the more fascinating National League Divisional Series match-ups in recent memory, the hefty bats Gebhard assembled fell in four games to the pitching-rich Atlanta Braves led by Hall-of-Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.
Gebhard moved on to serve in Baseball Operations with the Cardinals from 2000-2004 before joining Arizona in 2005. He works closely with Mike Bell to construct minor-league rosters, drawing on his experience in nearly every phase of baseball development. If you come to a lot of Hops games, chances are you’ve seen Gebhard prowling around the field, offering guidance to both the players and the coaches. His input is invaluable to the success of Arizona’s minor league affiliates.
Gebhard is beloved within the baseball community, and his wealth of experience should lend to some fantastic stories come panel-time at the banquet.
We’ve touched on a few items that will be available at the silent auction at the banquet. Another awesome package at the banquet includes an authentic, game-worn Hillsboro Hops jersey, and an opportunity for a private autograph session and meet-and-greet with select Hops players. It’s a chance to get to know the players you watch on the field every day and get to know the young men beyond just their talents on a baseball field.
It’s a unique, experiential item that you can’t find anywhere else than the Hops Fund Banquet. If you have children interested in baseball or softball, this is a terrific opportunity for them to meet their heroes. If you’re a memorabilia collector, this gives you a chance to meet future big-leaguers and get their autograph before it becomes a household name.
Give us a call if you’re interested in attending this fantastic event. It’s for a great cause, but it’s also a phenomenal evening full of laughs and friends. The panel peels back the curtain and gives you a look into the world of baseball and behind-the-scenes access to some of the most influential folks in baseball. You can reach us at (503) 640-0887 to get your ticket today.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting profiles on all of the special guests we’re fortunate enough to have attending our Third Annual Hillsboro Hops Fund Banquet. The event will take place on January 30th at NW Events and Environments in Hillsboro. Doors will open at 5:30 PM. Tickets are available by calling into the front office at (503) 640-0887.
Those currently scheduled to attend include: 2016 manager Shelley Duncan, pitching coach Mike Parrott, and hitting coach Jose Amado. In addition to those three, Diamondbacks’ Vice President and Special Assistant to the General Manager, Bob Gebhard, and Diamondbacks Director of Player Development, Mike Bell, will attend.
First guest up: Mike Bell. He has served as the Diamondbacks’ Director of Player Development for the past six seasons. He oversees all eight of Arizona’s minor leagues affiliates, and works closely with the minor league coordinators and coaching staffs to ensure everything runs smoothly and to determine the best developmental paths for each individual on all of the teams. He also is involved with promotions and reassignments of all Diamondback prospects. With help from his staff, Bell can be considered the lead architect of the 2014 and 2015 Hillsboro Hops championship teams.
Baseball is in Bell’s blood. He was selected in the first-round of the 1993 draft by the Texas Rangers. He clawed his way through seven minor league seasons before cracking the major league roster for the Cincinnati Reds in 2000. He would hit two home runs in his 19 career big-league games. His dad, Buddy, played 18 seasons of major league baseball, and managed for nine more. His brother David enjoyed an 11-year career in the big leagues and his other brother Ricky was a first-round pick in 1997.
“I grew up in a baseball family. My Dad and Grandpa played and my brothers and I watched and played a great deal of baseball as kids. We played on teams, we played pickup games and made up our own games. We played stick ball, wall ball, etc. Most importantly baseball has kept our family close over the years. We are all very involved in the game,” says Bell.
Mike continued playing minor-league baseball until deciding to hang it up in 2005. Almost immediately, Bell jumped into managing, getting his start in 2007 with Short-Season Yakima. He would then spend two seasons in Advanced-A Visalia as their manager, before assuming the role of Minor League Field Coordinator in 2010.
Given his wealth of experience playing and managing in Minor League Baseball, Bell was uniquely qualified to assume the role of Player Development Director. He has enjoyed tremendous success since taking the position, with seven affiliate championships in six seasons (two from Hillsboro.)
The biggest piece of advice he said he would share with young baseball players? “I tell kids all of the time to keep baseball, or any sport for that matter, in perspective. Play as many sports as you can and have hobbies: music, golf, hiking, fishing. Anything to stay active and productive. Read, go to school, and keep your mind sharp. Sports have become so specialized. We are burning kids out on the game. I think that is why there are so many injuries and young people are turned off by the game.”
We’re thrilled to have Mike Bell joining us for the banquet, where he’ll be able to provide a truly special look into one of baseball’s most respected families.
Our panel of awesome speakers won’t be the only attraction for the evening. We’ll also be hosting a special silent auction with an array of fantastic items up for bidding from a bevy of local businesses.
The first item we’d like to highlight comes from Jason Specht of Green Mountain Grills. Jason has been a loyal season-ticket-holder since our inaugural 2013 season and also operates Green Mountain Grills in North Plains.
Jason has agreed to donate a Daniel Boone Pellet Grill, courtesy of GMG. The grill is truly top-of-the-line. More information can be found here: http://greenmountaingrills.com/products/grills/daniel-boone-pellet-grill-wifi/
The grill is WiFi enabled, and if you download the App, you can monitor the temperature of the grill, the temperature of the meat probe, and set a timer to make sure the preparation of your dinner is as perfect as can be.
Thanks so much to Jason and Green Mountain Grills for his donation. There will be lots more fantastic items up for grabs at the banquet, and we’re excited for you to see what else we have.
We look forward to seeing you all on January 30.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, parent club for the two-time defending Northwest League Champion Hillsboro Hops, announced their developmental staff for the 2016 season on Monday. Shelley Duncan will return to Hillsboro to manage the team. He will be joined by long time pitching coach Mike Parrott and hitting coach Jose Amado, who will be making his organizational debut this season. Hillsboro native Ben Petrick will reprise his role as consultant for the fourth consecutive season.
Doug Drabek, Hillsboro’s pitching coach for the past three seasons, has been promoted to the Mobile BayBears of the Double A Southern League. Javier Colina, Hillsboro’s 2015 hitting coach, will serve as a coach for the Advanced-A Visalia Rawhide of the California League. He’ll join the staff of 2014 Hops manager J.R. House.
In light of the news of Duncan’s impending return to Hillsboro, he took some time to chat with us and provide some insight into both last season, and the future of the Hillsboro Hops.
Q: What was your reaction when you received the news that you’ll be back in Hillsboro for the 2016 season?
Shelley Duncan: There is no better city for short-season baseball than Hillsboro. I fell in love with the area and the front office staff, and had a very fun summer last year. To grow on the success we had in 2015 and build on the relationships I established is something that I am excitedly looking forward to this coming summer. To hear I was coming back was very exciting.
Q: What lessons will you take from managing the 2015 Hops into 2016?
SD: The players of 2015 and coaching staff I had with me made my job extremely easy. For my first year as a manager I was very lucky to have a pitching coach like Doug Drabek help me learn about managing a pitching staff. My experience with him will be what I carry with me most.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about managing? What have you least enjoyed?
SD: There is nothing I love more as a manager than seeing the players on the team come together for a common goal. A minor league season is long and very grinding, yet some of the best memories a player can have come from those experiences. When players pull for each other, work together, and have fun I know the season will be a special one for them. That is what I enjoy most.
What I enjoy least is probably the same thing I enjoyed least as a player, and that is the early morning bus rides the morning after a night game.
Q: What can you tell us about pitching coach Mike Parrott and hitting coach Jose Amado?
SD: We are very lucky to have Mike Parrott as our pitching coach this year. Not only me as a manager, but the whole staff. Mike has years and years of experience and is known as one of the best pitching coaches in baseball. He has tremendous energy and knowledge, and will be a huge person for me to lean on this year.
This will be Jose Amado’s first year in the organization after having years of experience in independent ball. He has the reputation of being a great hitting coach with a tremendous knowledge and work ethic towards his craft. He has a vibrant personality and tons of energy. I look forward to working with him this year.
Q: How helpful has it been to have Ben Petrick with you during your time in Hillsboro?
SD: Ben has a great knowledge of the game and is a blessing for me to have around the field. Not only does he help me with guidance when needed, but he has a special ability to develop trusting relationships with the players that they use to the fullest. His knowledge in catching and hitting is something that is very nice to have in the dugout and in the clubhouse.
Q: What has been your favorite thing about managing at Ron Tonkin Field?
SD: We draw very well at Ron Tonkin Field but what is most impressive is the energy level the fans bring to the game. It is clear as a manager that the players feed off of it and definitely play better at home. Not only are the fans energetic, I find them to be very baseball smart. It’s not common for a home crowd to have the baseball intelligence that Hillsboro has.
Q: What has been your favorite thing about the Hillsboro community?
SD: I love everything about the whole area. There is something fun to do every day of the summer, if it is driving west to the Oregon Coast, east to the Columbia River Gorge, berry picking in Hillsboro or spending time in downtown Portland. Just spending one summer there, it is obvious to me why so many companies are relocating there, and why so many people want to live there. The support in the Hillsboro area for Hops baseball is tremendous, and the players are extremely lucky to have this experience for their first professional season.
Q: What would you like to accomplish in the 2016 season?
SD: It is hard for me to say that winning a third consecutive championship for Hillsboro will be the goal for the 2016 season. We will have a new team and new staff, and the challenge for any manager is to get his players to come together and work hard day in and day out, to not only improve their baseball skills, but win on a daily basis. If I can have a role in accomplishing that feat, I am confident that 2016 will be successful once again.
Q: What were your thoughts on the trade of 2015 shortstop Dansby Swanson?
SD: It was a pleasure managing Dansby Swanson, and an honor being his first professional manager. Dansby is the type of player that makes his manager better with his tremendous baseball knowledge and leadership skills. In regards to the trade, I am very happy for the Arizona Diamondbacks. With AJ Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt and now Zack Greinke, their window to win a championship is 3 or 4 years. With a Gold Glove caliber shortstop in Nick Ahmed locked in for another 5 years, it was beneficial to add an arm like Shelby Miller. Dansby will have the opportunity to play in his home state of Georgia which I am very happy for and am confident to say he will be an impact player for the Braves organization for years to come.
Q: Why should we expect more success in 2016?
SD: The Arizona Diamondbacks have a commitment to winning that is unparalleled in all of minor league baseball. The front office, led by Mike Bell, will do whatever it takes to put a winning team on the field at every level. The organization has tremendous scouting and will once again do a great job at drafting players that will have an impact for the Hillsboro Hops, and with these players and the returners, we will instill a work ethic and style of baseball that produces excitement for the fans and will lead to success for 2016.